Tarptent ProTrail Li Review

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Home Forums Campfire Editor’s Roundtable Tarptent ProTrail Li Review

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    Andrew Marshall
    BPL Member


    Locale: Tahoe basin by way of the southern Appalachians

    Companion forum thread to: Tarptent ProTrail Li Review

    The Tarptent ProTrail Li (17.7 ounces / 502 g, from $529) is a single-wall, double trekking-pole, single-vestibule, front-entry Dyneema Composite Fabric (DCF) 1-person shelter.

    Bill in Roswell
    BPL Member


    Locale: Roswell, GA, USA

    Andrew, thanks so much for posting an excellent, well thought out review. We are about the same size (5-7, 200 lb, wide shoulders for me) and both lived in the southeast and the west. Ive used a silnylon version for years, so a comprehensive DCF review is invaluable. It is the perfect tent for me most of the time. I have cooked in the vestibule without issue, even with half of the door deployed (sil version has a mid-door guyline loop). Condensation dries quickly with just a bit of sun. I do keep a pack towel for a quick wipedown. I agree an extra pocket would be helpful, mainly for my glasses. Zpacks DCF-ready stick-on mesh pockets should work fine. Henry doesn’t like adding side mid loops saying users would distort the shape. I see his point, but those loops help with gusty winds so the long panel doesn’t collapse inward on the sil version. I would add such loops with no tension on the guylines.  If done correctly they would be good insurance for those occassional storm gusts with the DCF version. Great tent for 90% of my trips!

    James Marco
    BPL Member


    Locale: Finger Lakes

    Looks like a nice tent. I have a BA Scout 2, in DCF, that weighs in at 13oz, including stakes and guylines. The overall arrangement is roughly the same. Buy, it IS a two person tent. I had trouble on one trip with the side guyouts. I was wondering if I could add a line arrangement similar to yours. Any tips or tricks?

    Ryan Jordan


    Locale: Central Rockies

    Bill wrote:

    Henry doesn’t like adding side mid loops saying users would distort the shape.

    Oh, you have no idea, I saw this Notch in the Wyoming Bighorns this summer:

    And the sloppy pitch of the Zpacks tent to the left. Oh, the wrinkles in the Big Agnes tent in the background?! Don’t these guys know that these pitches will eventually end up online?! 🙄 😂

    Matthew / BPL


    Andrew, Thanks for such a thoughtful review of this design. I find this tent to be Henry’s most compelling offering. It’s such a good mix of value, weight, packed size and performance.

    I almost purchased a Protrail Li but instead went with a Yama Mountain Gear Cirriform Min Tarp and bivy. I went this direction for several reasons:

    1) The side entry option. This addresses my primary issue with the Protrail.

    2) Modularity. I like the option of using a bivy (or net tent), using the bivy without the tarp, etc.

    3) Materials. YMG uses .8 oz DCF over TT’s .51 oz DCF. I am not getting out enough nights these days to really be concerned about wearing either shelter out but I feel like that is a better material choice at a small weight/bulk penalty. You did not mention YMG’s material choice in the comparison of the two tents.

    Question: did you ever have trouble with the shallow bathtub on the Protrail? I never got wet in my Contrail but I often felt I was very, very close to getting wet by splashback.

    Mark Verber
    BPL Member


    Locale: San Francisco Bay Area

    Thanks? for posting those cringe worthy pictures Ryan.  For a better (but not perfect) hexamid pitch start around picture 17 from BPL GGG meetup in 2010.  [It was the first time I set up the hexamid… it arrive just before the trip].

    One of the things I have loved about Henry’s shelters is how pretty the lines are when pitched properly. I has also brought me join to get a perfect pitch. I also love many of the properties of DCF. I appreciate that the review identified the downside of fabrics without stretch. It is more challenging to get the perfect pitch when staking points are challenging and the ground is uneven.

    The original Squall was my first Tarptent shelter. It was so easy to get a good pitch. Several years later there was a Gossamer Gear / Tarptent collaboration which make the Squall in Spinnaker. It was significantly harder to get a good pitch. While I love not having to get up in the middle of the night to re-tension and the lack of water absorption, the challenges of getting a tight pitch were a deal breaker for me at that time.

    Your review is good food for though. I had been very tempted by the ProTrail, looking for something that would be significantly easier to pitch than my hexamid. While the ProTrail will be easier, it might not be as easy as I was thinking given my desire to have a perfect pitch every time.

    John B
    BPL Member


    Thanks for the write-up!  I purchased the Protrail Li last year after seriously considering the Aeon Li, Altaplex and Protrail Li.  My previous one-person tent was the Gossamer Gear The One, which I absolutely adore, and I was looking forward to the DCF version, but the reduced dimensions of their DCF design eliminated that as an option for me.

    Ultimately I chose the Protrail Li for (1) floor space, (2) cost, and (3) ability to set up with 4 anchor points.  I am 6′ even, and I do find the head-shoulder room somewhat limited.  However, the positive trade-off is the tremendous amount of floor-space at the head-end, which I value more.

    The 42in wide front of the bathtub floor allows me to bring in any gear needed, and the generous side mesh provides additional space to dry/air out light items of clothing (i.e. socks, a shirt, or running shorts) overnight in dry weather.  The vestibule is actually quite generous.  I keep my backpack on the right side where my trekking pole is slanted and can enter and exit quite easily.  It’s also very easy to cook in the vestibule, even with gear inside protected during a rain-storm.

    One item that’s also not discussed frequently with side-entry tents is the fact that you sleep with your head so close to the tent wall.  This occasionally gives me a sense of being closed in more.  With the front entry Protrail Li, I sleep with a much greater sense of space and openness.

    Your point about this tent being very easy to pitch moderately well is such an accurate description.  I’ve attached a picture of one such pitch on a rock ledge on Strickler Knob in the Virginia Massanutten Mountain region.  This was by no means a “perfect pitch”, but it was done late at night in the dark, when all other campsites were taken.  Under the circumstances, it worked quite well for the situation I found myself in, and I don’t think I would have been able to pitch this with the other options I was considering above.  That said, the “perfect” pitch does typically require some tweaking, though I don’t think any more so than tents with more stakes required.

    One tip is to ensure the bathtub tension straps are completely slacked out while pitching.  I’ve found that having those tensioned from a previous setup can interfere with a taut pitch of the side panels.  So I make sure to slack them out all the way when I take the tent down in order to make the next pitch easier.

    Rock ledge on Strickler Knob in VA

    John B
    BPL Member


    Responding to Matt K – The bathtub on the protrail li works extremely well, primarily because of the ability to tension the floor corners.  However, in a rain-storm, you do typically need to close the provided rear rain flaps, which (1) is somewhat of a pain due to needing to crawl back to the confines of the rear of the tent and (2) doing so does significantly limit airflow.  So, in a warm summer rainstorm, this can be a bit stifling.  Backsplash on the sides and front is not a problem due to the clearance provided between the tent wall and bathtub floor.

    Matthew / BPL


    Dang. I forgot how wide the bathtub is. 42” is quite generous.

    Russ W
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southeastern US

    I use the Protrail Li and have to say I’m a fan. Andrew, the tip about using a pod to store the tent is nothing short of brilliant… I’ve been folding and rolling and wishing I could save time in the morning. You made my day!

    Eric Blumensaadt
    BPL Member


    Locale: Mojave Desert

    Excellent review and well written, thanks.

    My buddy bought the sil-nylon version of the TT Pro Trail. He loves it. I once owned the now discontinued but similar Tarptent 15 years ago. (Can’t remember the name.)

    I have the TT Notch Li and use the TT handle receiver to keep the handles out of the dirt. My CF hiking poles use ribber tip caps so don’t sink into the ground like a metal tip would. Henry was , as usual, clever in designing that item for we fastidious (OK, anal retentive) backpackers.

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